Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Canon 7D movie!

SECHD: how it was shot... by Patrick Murphy-Racey from patrick murphy-racey on Vimeo.

Amazing the sort of images you can get out of DSLR these days..i have a feeling this will be my new toy next yr!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A good deed

So after a few months of absence from the busking scene, I decided last Friday that it's time again to pick up my guitar and hit the streets! My original plan was to head to the bridge at Clarke Quay, where I had some fun playing there a couple of times previously, and I thought it was one of the best street-singing spots in Singapore. Unfortunately, the weather didn't look too forgiving and I decided to try my luck at another spot in Orchard where I played once or twice before...which is when I bumped into this dude here:

He just started busking at that spot and that means I'd have to look around for alternatives. I decided to hang around for a bit and listened to his songs, but after a few minutes, this security guard from Wheelock came and asked him to leave. I was quite surprised since this spot has been quite a popular place for buskers for years and I've never heard of complaints from the mall management. So I decided to speak with the supervisor to find out why the sudden change in their "tolerant" policy.

When i reached his office, he seemed like he was expecting someone like me to come down to his office to question him on this issue, and he duly showed me a news article (laminated no less!) that described how the busking areas in Orchard has been defined more specifically now. He told me if we wanted to sing there we'd have to contact LTA. I wanted to tell him that the tunnel is not a private property of the mall and the way I see it, we're hardly driving away any crowds from their establishment...then again he didn't look like he was in the mood to negotiate so I figured it'd be easier to just find another spot. I think one of these days I should really pen a proper proposal letter to SMRT and LTA to propose more busking spots (much like how the Tube in London had all these designated spots for busking).

Obviously, the busker was disappointed when i came back to the tunnel to break the news to him. Actually at that point I thought that will really be the end of my busking night since I can't really think of a spot in Orchard that is actually good for my type of busking (besides the wheelock tunnel). Fortunately the busker brought me to this other spot adjacent to Shaw. That spot is quite noisy because of the human traffic so I never gave it much thought; but the busker advised that with my amp i might be able to pull it i thought i might as well give it a go since I've got all my "barang barang" with me. And I'm glad I did. It's not the best place to busk, but the place is enclosed such that the echo actually sounded quite good :)

So i set up my gears and played for more than 2 hours. Tammy came to give her support (yay!) and helped me took some photo with the iPhone.

Half-way through my busking I noticed an old lady setting up some "street store" around 20m away from where I was. I know I've talked about how I want my busking to be a financially self-sustainable activity in the past, but I've always tried to make it a point that I'm not busking in an adjacent location to a more "needy" busker/street-vendor (yes i do think of busking as somewhat akin to the real estate business). I took a look at the money in my box (i'm guessing ~$70 worth?) and took another look at her...I guess I'd just have to be not so "investment-driven" for once and passed her my income...

Well, she was very pleased when I passed her the $$, and she told me this will cover her rent...when i heard that i thought how terrible it'd be if I had made a decision to do otherwise...anyways, she insisted of "selling" me one of those items she had laid out on her mat...and there're plenty, ranging from instant noodle packs to t-shirt to canned food...

So i took home the only thing that i could think of being useful to me...a really dated guidebook for A level economics....that is the last thing i expected to find from her "collection"...well, i took it, for ~$70...this is one of those few times in life where i actually feel good overpaying for something..hee :)

Monday, December 07, 2009


I feel like crying after watching this...this has gotta be one of the most meaningful manga series..

And the song is sooo nice..i wanna learn this one~

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Google Japan's balloon stunt

2,500 balloons for one many do we need to get a house to fly, like in "Up"?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pirate radio!

Wanna watch this!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fleet Foxes

Another brilliant "take away show"...awesome!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Old songs...old memory..

Just listened to some of the old recordings that I put up on YouTube 3 yrs ago...I admire the guy in the video...he sang his heart out...he sang as though nothing in the world mattered to him at that instant except these tunes he had...can I be like him, again?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Jason Mraz

What can i say...this guy is amazing!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Microsoft for 2019

Not that impressive though...the ideas here mainly revolve around advancement in display and augmented for instant language translation, i think it'd be great if a really fluent translation can actually be operational by 2019, though i have my doubts...the rest are actually quite believable...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Easy at 5 (finally...a new song!)

This one started out as some random humming-along recording on my's got a simple tune with a dead-simple chord progression...but i dig it :) initially when i was penning down the words, i wanted it to be a very "take it easy" kind of song...well, it's sort of turn out this way, and more! i made references to my interests in design, programming, macroeconomics and directly quote from Steve Jobs speech at Stanford commencement...the product turns out to be a much more personal piece than I originally's reflective of some of the personal struggles i faced these few yrs and hopefully serves as a reminder to myself of the kind of person i really wanna be...a modern 令狐沖...yup, that's pretty much the end game for me :) enjoy~

Easy is the word that i been tryin' to live by
And easy is the way for all to have a good time
And easy is it easy does it life is a ride
And easy to the rescue, easy is the recipe

Easy is the peace that is the state of my mind
And with ease I'm gonna dabble with the curves and and the lines
I'll let the shaping and the shading before my eyes
And with an innocent stroke, i'm gonna paint it all white

Moving on, i got this curiosity brewing strong
I'd pick up all the javas and rubys and pythons
To the detriment of every bugs, bytes and bits
Got a 11001101

That's the way I'm gonna package it all
If you can't keep up with the rhythm baby ain't nobody's fault
Come on go, with the flow, make it slow, no one knows
Lets make this moment count, sing!


Bababa..baladida what do you mean it's now 5 am
I got my 6-string over here
I'm gonna play it till i'm dead

(Said i'm easy!)

Bababa..baladida what do you mean you ain't got not time
Don't give a damn about the situation
Let us play this till the end

Na na na na na.... woo woo!

2nd verse:
Yeah, they judge you with the gravity and weight of the earth
They segregate you brand you into some kind of dirt
Their banners and their slogans and their inward-looking world
And they're setting up the frame within which everybody serve

But it's the moon that you and i are flying towards
And past the hazy crazy baby soon you will learn
The dreamers and the poets and the dancers in turn
Well they're as real as it comes, as real as it does

Say this life's all about connecting the dots
Go easy with your heart but don't settle till you're settled
Stay foolish stay hungry cos you're already naked
Let's make this moment count, sing!

Make it easy feeling lazy take it easy with a boozty
Keep it groovy kinda spacey reading keynes feeling dizzy
Partly pacy says it slowly play it funky life is funny
Take it easy with the one eh? yeah..

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Singing for Mercy Relief

This is my 3rd time singing at a Mercy Relief event...glad to be involved in a meaningful cause.. tks Jonathan as usual for arranging :)

Geek in the pink:





Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Missing blogging...

Thing is, I've been reading (blogs, books) and singing so much these days I never quite took the time to actually sit down, calm myself, reflect and blog about the things/ideas that have been occupying my mind. I've kept up with the habit of jotting down ideas and now I've got ton of emails lying somewhere in my inbox that I wrote to myself every time I came across a particular thought or idea. Well, doing that "recording" is well and good, but actually developing these ideas in a more cogent fashion in blog post is what I miss doing. Blogging a sincere post often turns out to be a lengthy and sometime exhausting event for me; not that I care much about the grammer - it's the thought process where I must force myself to organize all these various ideas into a single post that really helps me internalize and think through the themes spinning around my brain. Yes, I do miss blogging...I hope I'd have the discipline to keep up with the posts now that I've decided to start writing again...we'd see how this goes from here~

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

On your mark!

By Chage & Aska (my fav japanese group) and Miyazaki (the god of japanese anime)! Love the song!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mosquito Song

ahahhaa! awesome!

Sunday, August 09, 2009


This could possibly be the most uplifting, moving, fun, exciting movie I've ever watched! I'm overwhelmed! Kudos to Pixar for another masterpiece!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Ascent of Money

An interesting series based on Prof Ferguson's own book "Ascent of Money"'s a snippet from one of the episodes concerning microfinance...the series is well worth a watch..

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tribute dance to MJ in Stockholm


And how about this one in a prison in Philippines?

R.I.P. MJ!

You see...I've never really been a big MJ fan...I know he can dance real good, and he's got a unique way of singing...but I won't put him in my top 10 fav artists...until his death...I, like millions around the world, started revisiting his masterpieces on Youtube...perhaps I was too young back then to appreciate his genius...but watching his videos now make me realize how truly gifted a performer he is...he is truly in a realm of his own...I still may not fully buy into his way of singing, but there's no denying he's the King...

as i kept listening to his old hits i was thinking how has he influenced my life, then it suddenly dawned on see, when I first came to Singapore, I figured I needed an English name...and being a Hong Konger without much command of the language to speak of...Michael is the one English name I know...i would find out later that it was the english name of Sam Hui's elder brother, and since my younger brother is called Sam, I conveniently took that as a reason for me being named Michael...but truth be told, as I recall now, I chose the name Michael because really, I don't know any other English name...and that, I guess, is a clear manifestation of his global influence...

R.I.P. MJ...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Flight of the conchords!

These guys are genius! And their music is actually really good! Can't stop watching the vids!

We're in love with a sexy lady:

If you're into it:

Humans are dead:

Leggie Blonde:

A kiss is not a contract:

Mother 'Uckers:

Albi (the racist dragon):

The Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros:

I'm not cryin':

You're so beautiful:

Business time:

Bret you got it going on:



Thursday, May 28, 2009

I shall blog again!

thought to self: when I'm done with my CFA BS...i intend to blog much more regularly! i really sld...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

One Love!

I can listen to this alll day...let's get together and feel alrite~

Monday, May 04, 2009

Stand by me

I am speechless after watching this...this is what music at its most pure and simple form...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thoughts on rights issue

I actually wrote this almost 2 months ago. While I've circulated to some close friends to bounce off some ideas, I decided that I should only post this after the successful completion of my employer's rights issue. Realistically, the material below is not specific to any particular rights issue (though I did refer to examples of specific ones to make my point), rather it's a collection of some thoughts on how a shareholder should interpret/evaluate a rights issue, and it is my contention that the media at large has done the public a big disservice by possibly presenting a wrong framework to look at the whole issue. Having said that, I must confess that I'm really no expert and it's totally possible that my points here below are not relevant or worse, wrong in its conclusions. Indeed i'd be more than happy to hear your views on how I might have misinterpreted the mechanism or screwed up the analysis.

Finally, I've posted 2 models on google spreadsheet, one done by me, and a follow-up done by my friend Eli. If you're the number-crunching kind, I suggest you dive straight to them. The models are fairly straight forward.

So, here goes, a long post on the topic of Rights Issue:

When is discount a discount?

Let's start with something fairly recent. CapitaLand announced a 1-for-2 renounceable rights offer for an equity raising of ~S$1.84b, at S$1.30 per new share or 45% discount to the trading price prior to announcement (S$2.36). My first impression upon learning the news was that the offer price was at a steep discount, and as an existing shareholder, I thought that it's a bargain that I shouldn't miss. Perhaps I could "average down" my per share cost? How about any dilution effect? Are we transferring wealth from existing shareholders who're not participating in this equity raise to those new shareholders who's getting the shares at a discount?

I was not alone in this line of thinking. The next day, BT runs an article on the rights offer with the following line: "...another element that caught most analysts by surprise was the steep discounts at which the rights issues are being done..." while quoting another analyst saying that "CapitaLand and CMT could be pricing the rights issues lower to entice their shareholders to take up their allotments in the current weak market."

Then the following day, BT runs another article, making a similar point, "...This has led some to suggest that such hefty discounts - disbursed by two of Singapore's biggest companies, no less - may become the benchmark for subsequent issues. If DBS and CapitaLand are pricing at 45% discount, can much smaller companies ask for anything higher? While there are many factors influencing pricing, such as the number of rights shares against the number of existing shares held and size of rights issue, the market is bracing itself for more deeply discounted deals to follow. This will be bad news for weaker firms that are trying to raise cash from shareholders, now that the banks have turned their backs on lending. Without deep discounts, rights issues may fail if shareholders shun them..."

However, on second thoughts, this "discount" somehow doesn't feel right. Firstly, share price is a function of the shares outstanding, but the number of shares outstanding can be entirely arbitrary. The only figure with "real" economic meaning is the market cap (although strictly speaking, even the market cap is just a stretch of imagination of what very few people, at a particular point in time, think the common equity portion is worth and we just extrapolate that as what all the other non-participating must also think; certainly an intellectually convenient shortcut to quantify worth, but for our purpose can be said to be more "real" than share price or shares outstanding). Indeed, comparing Berkshire's A share price (~US$90,000) and Microsoft share price (~US$19) has no meaning while comparing their mkt caps (US$140b vs US$170b) gives real insight.

In other words, the rights issue ratio, with which the ending outstanding shares are calculated, can be adjusted to achieve different "discount" offer price, while ensuring that the amount of new equity raised is the same. If so, isn't this "discount" an illusion? In fact, could the issue ratio be adjusted to produce a "premium" offer price instead of a “discount” price? Will my ending economic interest as a shareholder be enhanced or eroded due to such an offer? I figured it'd be easier to just do a quick model to find out.

The analysis

Assume a hypothetical company with 36 shares outstanding originally (see below). The current traded price is $2.00, giving a mkt cap of $72.00. Also assume that there’re 3 existing shareholders, each holding 12 shares or one-third of the equity (although they each have a separate average cost of investment, with investor A buying in at the highest at $5, and investor C buying at $2, the current price). Note that I’ve also computed the cost of stock for each investor per 100 parts of the stock (eg. Investor A: $60/33%/10 = $1.80). I’d explain the significance of this additional measure later.

Now suppose the company announce a 1-for-2 rights offer (similar to CL’s arrangement; see case 1 below) at an offer price of $1.00 per new shares, or 50% below the last traded price of $2.00. Assuming full take-up, the company will be able to raise a total of $18 with a Theoretical Ex-Trading Price (TETP) of $1.67 and pushing the mkt cap from $72 to $90. Here, we show that both investor A & B fully take up their respective rights, hence maintaining their proportional share of the stock (at 33%). Doing so will naturally lower their cost of investment on a per share basis (investor A from $5.00 to $3.67 & investor B from $2.00 to $1.67). However, such comparison is nonsensical as the very yardstick used in this measurement (ie. number of shares outstanding) is different before and after the equity raising. This is like measuring a shoe lace with a ruler based on centimeters standards and measuring a slightly longer shoe lace with another ruler based on inches and then concluding the shorter shoe lace is actually longer because of the nominal value in cm.

Instead, the more consistent way to calculate the cost of investment in a stock is to use a fixed base, in this case I’ve chosen to split up the stock into 100 parts. As such, we can see below that the cost of stock for Investor A has increased from $1.80 to $1.98 and for Investor B $0.72 to $0.90 after the rights offer. This makes sense because while both investors A & B maintain the same proportion of the stock (both 33%), the pie (or worth of the company) has become larger so naturally the cost of investment on a per 100 part basis would have increased.
Now what if an existing shareholder declines to participate with this equity raising? How would his economic worth change after such an exercise? If we only think about the value of the stock, it would seem that his economic interest would have been diluted. However, the shareholder has a second recourse, which lies in the value of the rights he’s been conferred.

Here, we show that investor C does not participate in the equity raising, so he’d have maintained his original number of shares (12 shares). What should he do with his 6 “rights” then? These “rights” are essentially call options, and call options have 2 sources of value, its intrinsic value if it’s in-the-money and its time value (for the potential of being more in-the-money before maturity). We can think of the offer price of $1.00 as the strike price of the option, and if we assume for the moment that the TETP of $1.67 will indeed be the ex-trading price, then this “right” will have an intrinsic value of $0.67 (we’d ignore the time value for now; in any case, it’d be a very small value due to the typical short trading window associated with rights). Then, investor D, someone who has not prior shareholding in the company, comes along and if he also agrees that the ex-trading price will be $1.67, he’d be willing to purchase these rights at $0.67 apiece from investor C. The end result is that investor C’s stake in the company would have been diluted from 33% to 22%, but he’d have realized a cash gain from the proceeds of the rights sale, with the net effect that his economic worth would have maintained the same at $24 although they’re now being represented in different assets. Previous, he had 12 shares at $2.00 (giving $24), now he has 12 shares at $1.67 and cash of $4.00 (also giving $24). One interesting outcome is that his ending cost of stock (net of cash proceeds from rights sales) on a per 100 parts basis would have remained at $0.36 (ie. (12 x $1 - $4)/22%/100=$0.36 ). Why is this the case?

Assume then instead of a 1-for-2 rights offer, the company announces a 1-for-1 offer. In order to raise the same amount of equity ($18), the offer price for such shares would be $0.50 (instead of $1.00 previously). The ending mkt cap will be the same, at $90. Looking at both investor A & B (who both participate fully in offer and hence maintaining 33% stake each), their per share cost of investment would appear to have reduced (eg. Investor A from $5.00 to $2.75) but on a per 100 parts basis, its ending cost would be $1.98, the same as it were under a 1-for-2 offer. In other words, the existing shareholders who take part fully in such issue should have been indifferent between different “discount” in offer price or rights issue ratio.

How about investor C, the shareholder opting to sell his rights? He would have received $9 in this case if he gives up all his “rights to pay up” and his stake would have been reduced from 33% to 17% correspondingly while maintaining his original economic worth of $24. On the other hand, his cost of stock on a per 100 parts basis would have been $0.18 (ie. (12 x $1 -$9)/17%/100 = $0.18) versus the original $0.36. This is true “averaging down” of cost since this is based on a fixed scale (ie. 100 parts) instead of the usual averaging down when most think in terms of cost per share.

Let’s take a closer look to see how this reduction in cost of stock (per 100 parts) is achieved. Table 4 shows Investor C’s possible profile under both 1-for-2 (blue) and 1-for-1 (red) offer scenarios as he adjusts his ending stake in the company. He can vary his stake by opting to participate partially in the rights offer (selling some rights while exercising the rest himself). We can see here that the 1-for-2 scheme only allows Investor C to “sell down” his stake to ~22%, while 1-for-1 scheme allows him to go down to ~17%. Hence, a 1-for-1 issue actually allows greater scope for true “averaging down” (in per 100 parts basis) given the nominal discount in offer price is less than that of the 1-for-2 issue. Naturally, if investor C chooses to fully take up the rights issue, his “net worth” (accounting for the stock value and cash value) would have increased to $30 like investor A & B, but if he’s willing to exchange his asset mix from one form (in this company’s stock) to another (cash proceeds from rights sales), he might be able to do some true “averaging down”. However, I have to caution that such “averaging down” only works for the investor whose original cost of investment (on a per share basis) is higher than the offer price.

As a final note on the “discount” price, I’d like to add that in fact there should be no realistic way for the right issue to be priced at a “premium” and hence it follows that all rights issue would have to be offered at discount. One way to think of it is that if it’s priced at a “premium” to current trading price, the rights (or essentially options) will basically have a negative intrinsic value! Unless there’s legitimate reason to believe the trading price will shoot up after the announcement of the rights issue, the negative intrinsic value basically means that the shareholder will be handed a liability instead of an asset if given such rights.

Some other considerations

There’re a few more important aspects surrounding a right issue that I’d like to point out briefly (yes, this post is getting too long). First is the treatment of odd lots. This arises when the issue ratio is in some “funny” ratio whereby it’d be rather rare for the existing shareholders (especially retail investors) to convert his shares nicely into whole-number lots. I’m not sure if there’s any convention in dealing with this “odd lots” trading issue. Quite likely, there’d be a limited trading period for such lots in the market so that the lots can be made “whole” as much as possible through market transactions. I haven’t thought too deeply into this yet but I suppose the value of such “odd lots” would be slightly depressed compared to full lots simply because we have a case of motivated sellers. Just think of whether you would prefer a one-dollar coin versus 100 one-cent coins that come with expiry date!

Secondly, what if the rights issue is underwritten by 3rd parties? Essentially, the underwriters will guarantee to take up the issue if the rights are not fully taken up. But there’s a catch, these 3rd parties will pay for the issues at the discounted price, without needing to pay for the rights to acquire the new shares, because the rights have expired! This gives rise to an interesting dilemma. Basically, existing shareholders are offered the rights to buy up new shares. Now these rights have intrinsic values but they are offered to existing shareholders for free simply due to their position as co-owner of the business. Question is, why should there be an expiry date to these options and if there must be one, how long should the option tenure be in order to be considered fair? Obviously, the management calls for rights issue because it needs/wants capital injection, and presumably they want it sooner rather than later. The process admittedly shouldn’t be delayed unnecessarily but is a fair option tenure a week? A month? This is open to debate.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the crucial question a shareholder should ask before committing to rights issue is to decide if the company can use this new funding to produce ROIC sufficiently higher than the firm’s new WACC. If this new funding is meant for new growth opportunity, then possibly a rights issue makes sense. But if the new funding is meant to effect permanent change to the firm’s capital structure (eg. gearing), then the shareholder needs to decide whether he’d be happy if the lower return is sufficiently higher than the lower cost of capital. What certainly shouldn’t be the shareholders’ consideration (if my analysis above is correct, which I confess I’m not 100% certain) is that he shouldn’t miss out a good chance to buy shares at “discount” to cost “average down”.

Which is why I get frustrated to read things like this in the press: “Funds will sell ahead of rights issue because the rights are at a discount and cheaper than the mother share”, said Peter Ng, CEO of boutique fund on CMT rights issue….Issuing new shares at steep discount to market price is seen as one way to make these cash calls more palatable to shareholders.” – The Edge 16 Feb 2009 issue.

Indeed, I’ve always had a big problem with such misplaced trust in seemingly knowledgeable source. Journalists, economists, even doctors (just google “iatrogenics”) are all common culprits. I shudder at the thought of the many disastrous decisions made based on such over-simplification and reliance on the “obvious” reasoning. I maybe too disparaging to conventional “wisdom” (and I know I can get on people’s nerves because I’m always so skeptical), but I guess I just hate “bull shit”, especially when the fellow don’t even realize it and brand it as “advice” instead.

I got my iPhone (finally)!!!

And i absolutely adore it!!! I'm using it to read all my google reader feeds, check on bloomberg/NYT, reading Wiki articles and listening to all the great podcast from various great professors (mainly from academic earth and econ talk)'s true that I've been eyeing iPhone since the news of its development first leaked out...but being the very frugal (= cheap) person I am, i've managed to hold off the temptation until my old phone (sony ericsson) finally dies on thanks to Tammy (who paid for it), i'm now loving every single minute with it!!! the only thing i'd complain is that not every app (eg. google mobile) is available to singapore users...not too sure if the bottleneck occurs at the SingTel or the developer part...looks like the mobile space is still not fully open up like the web yet...but with all the app stores popping up for the various brands...i have high hopes that we'd see more openness and transparency in the mobile development scene...meanwhile i'd need to get back to reading my feeds...on my iPhone of course :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

iJounalist episode on busking

This is the TV program I appeared on a few weeks ago. I must say it feels weird watching and listening to myself on TV...anyway, you can find my reflections on the shoot in this previous post.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why do I street-sing? Reflections from CNA show

Well, it's a topic that I've written several times before (see here, here, here, here, and for a comic version, see here). Few weeks back, I got an email from the producers of the Channel News Asia program "iJournalist" (btw, the series is actually produced by student interns working in CNA, which I think is a cool arrangement). Apparently, they've selected to do an episode on "busking vs begging" and came across this blog. I'm glad to participate as I see it as another channel to spread my message/hope, which is that more folks like me who enjoy music or other crafts like magic or juggling etc, will use the streets as a platform to showcase and share their crafts. Of course, journalists being what they are or what they have to be (ie. to deliver a few key points in easy-to-relate punchlines and in the process over-simplify or worse, imply the most explanable but ultimately wrong diagnosis of the issue; on this I agree whole-heartedly with Nassim Taleb) and also of the fact that I don't think I made my points clearly during the interview (especially under the pressure of the camera), I feel compelled to reiterate some of my point of view on the subject of busking, especially when the episode tried to link "busking" and "begging" together (Don't get me wrong, the producers, interviewer and the TV crew were really nice folks and I had a great time hanging out with them, but the problem with journalism I describe above is a systemic issue that I suppose "comes with the job").

First of all, I never thought of busking as begging. In fact, this concept would have seemed rather absurd if you were to ask someone from US, Europe, Australia etc if busking is a form of begging. Then again, I don't think anyone can fault some Singaporeans for making the generalized observation that a substantial proportion of the buskers here are handicapped or disadvantaged in some ways. For these buskers, what they do on the streets is probably their primary means of earning an income, and for that I have the utmost respect for them. Essentially, they're offering a service of sort, and payment is completely voluntary. Sometimes, when there is money transactions involved, the immediate instinct for most people is to assume the conditions surrounding a typical market economy. But in fact, what is truly going on here is a gift economy. I highly doubt that anyone actually has a fixed budget each week under the item "expenses for the entertainment service provided by buskers". In fact, the exchange is much more spontaneous than that.

Which is why I disagree with my mom's contention that I'm taking away "business" from those who really needs it (presumably the disadvantaged ones). Most people would start out with the assumption that the "market size" of the busking "industry" (or you can think of the total earnings by every buskers) is a constant. So my busking "revenue" would have been some other buskers' "revenue". I think of it quite differently. Firstly, I don't think of the entire busking community as functioning as a single market providing the same commodity. On the contrary, each of us operate in separate markets that have minimal correlation with the each other. Being someone working in real estate, I tend to think in terms of space. As a matter of fact, busking is a lot like real estate. Depending on the kind of craft you're doing (be it music, magic, juggling etc), your addressable "market" is really just about 20-30m radius from where you are (ie. location matters). In other words, if you were to busk some 100 m away from another busker, arguably it can be said that you're competing in a different market. Of course, each of these micro-markets are still dependent in each other in some ways. After all, if a passer-by give his $$ to a busker and then 100 m down the road he comes across another busker, his willingness to give this other busker $$ could be contingent on whether he gave or how much he gave the previous buskers (ie. his "busking expense" is path-dependent). But I do see where my mom is coming from, so I always made it a point to busk at a location that's not anywhere near another busker (really, out of basic courtesy that's the only way to do it regardless of whether the "competing" buskers are handicapped or not) and given that this is a gift economy (to the extent that no one has a fixed "busking expense" budget), I believe doing so would not deprive another busker of his/her fair share of space/attention/"revenue" in a significant way.

Ok, so what if you're not "robbing" some other needy buskers of potential "revenue"; why do you even bother taking $$ if truly you're doing this purely out of your passion for music? This is, to me, a much tougher question to answer. When I first started out, I actually did not put any money box in front of me, and yet some passers-by were still giving me $$. As I was doing in the States, where the potential moral dilemma of taking "business" away from some other needy buskers didi not really exist, I thought why not, since every busker in the Bay Area were taking doing the same, and I'm sure many of them weren't doing it purely for the $$ either.

Sometime after, I came across an interview with Li ka-shing, the Hong Kong tycoon. He was describing an anecdote when he accidentally dropped a coin underneath his car. He took some effort to bend down and search for his missing coin. So why would someone whose net worth counts by the billions care about a missing coin? His response: "If I were to just ignore that coin, 50 cents may disappear from the earth forever. It may never be used. But if I get back that coin, I can invest it, donate to someone else or at least make some good use of it." That made a deep impression on me. I've come to the conclusion (for now) that I should attempt to be financially responsible in all my actions. Busking is no exception. There's real costs involved; two-way taxi rides, beverages I consume during the session and the sunk cost of my equipments. If there's a chance for me to recover some of these costs, I thought I should not deny myself that opportunity, regardless of how wealthy or poor I am. Earning $$ and how to use that $$ (either spending it for myself, my family or donate to others) can rightfully be separated into 2 distinct decision-making processes.

Then again, all the talk and focus above on $$ really misses the point. I actually hate addressing busking in such an economic way, though I admit this is one of the ways one can look at it. Indeed I still had my reservation about the approach of the iJournalist program, in their attempt to link busking and begging together. I'm not sure if it's right framework to approach busking, though I concur perhaps some Singaporeans (including my mom) view busking this way and it certainly makes for a more sensational headline. The producers actually asked me to do an experiment whereby I'd busk as per normal and then pretend to be a blind busker, and to see if my "revenue" differs under the two scenarios. On first thought it sounds like an interesting experiment but after some consideration, I declined. Besides not being comfortable with pretending to be someone I'm not, I'm also uncertain if any constructive conclusion can be arrived from such an experiment.

At the end of the day, my wish is to convince more aspiring artists to go on the streets and share their crafts. Below is a picture which Tammy took when I was street-singing in Berkeley. I was singing "over the rainbow" when this couple started dancing along the music. I mean, how can you even put a dollar sign to a moment like this? I think this picture says it all, why I do what I do.

Amazing acaplla on the train


Academic Earth - awesome site!

This site is why I just LOVE the internet - Academic Earth

Here's Robert Shiller course on financial markets

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Taleb on his book

Nassim Taleb + Daniel Kahneman talk

2 great intellectuals reflecting on the crisis..

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Amazing "thinking" bird

Amazing cognitive ability!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Colbert's remix!

One word: Awesomeness!

Amazing wrestling~

i'm not a big fan of wrestling..but this is sth else~!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Yellow line in football telecast

Explanation of augmented reality in sports...expect much more use of the technology in other areas..

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Economist on marketing during recession

Ads on Edge
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: branding recession)

Nice presentation style...

Monday, January 05, 2009

General Tsao's chicken and more!

Interesting look at Americanized Chinese food!